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- CityPASS in NYC: Is it Worth It for Families?
- What is CityPASS?
- How much is a New York CityPASS?
- What attractions are included with a NYC CityPASS purchase?
- Does the C3 Offer the Same Attractions?
- Is a hop-on, hop-off bus tour included with a CityPASS purchase?
- Will you save money visiting NYC attractions?
- Where do you buy CityPASS tickets?
- The final word on CityPASS in NYC
Planning a vacation in New York City? Lucky you! It’s a top destination for families. But it can be one of the priciest too. How can you save money on your trip to the Big Apple? The CityPASS program in NYC offers discounted admission to a select group of the most popular attractions. Want to know if it’s worth buying? Here’s the info you need to help you decide.
CityPASS in NYC: Is it Worth It for Families?
Disclosures: The writer was hosted this trip.
What is CityPASS?
CityPASS tickets provide discounted admission to a number of attractions in North American destinations: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Southern California, Tampa Bay, Toronto and New York City. The tickets, once activated for your first use, are good for nine consecutive days, giving you plenty of time to tour.
How much is a New York CityPASS?
There are two CityPASS ticket options in NYC. Visitors can choose the traditional CityPASS program with admission to 6 top attractions. For those who want a smaller slice of the Big Apple, the C3 lets you choose 3 experiences from 11 choices. Check the CityPASS website for current ticket pricing.
What attractions are included with a NYC CityPASS purchase?
The traditional CityPASS program gives you admission to the following three Manhattan attractions:
In addition, ticket holders choose ONE from each of the following duos:
- 9/11 Memorial & Museum OR Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
- Top of the Rock Observation Deck OR Guggenheim Museum
- Ferry Access to Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island OR Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
Does the C3 Offer the Same Attractions?
Yes. C3 ticket holders get to choose THREE admissions from the same attractions. Plus C3 passholders have 3 additional options:
- The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)
- Hornblower Sightseeing Cruises
- EDGE, Manhattan’s newest observation deck – a glass floor suspended 100 stories high in the Hudson Yards complex
Is a hop-on, hop-off bus tour included with a CityPASS purchase?
At this time, a hop-on, hop-off bus tour is NOT included with the CityPASS program. Visitors interested in touring New York City by bus should look at other discount ticket packages, such as The New York Pass or New York Explorer Pass.
Will you save money visiting NYC attractions?
Good question. The potential to save as much as 44% off the normal ticketed admission prices is available to you if you purchase a NYC CityPASS package. This discount applies to both adult and child admissions. However, to realize the max savings, you’ll need to make full use of your CityPASS vouchers and visit attractions when the regular admission prices are being charged. The site’s calculations do not take into account any seasonal or off-peak discounts that may be available. Also, potential senior or military reductions are not factored into the cost savings. These discounts may be applicable to you or members of your family and might provide you with better value.
CityPASS offers a discounted ticket for children ages 6-17. If you are traveling with children under 6, the admission requirements for the individual attractions apply. Some may be free; others may require a ticket.
Where do you buy CityPASS tickets?
Prior to traveling, you can buy CityPASS tickets online. Choose emailed mobile tickets for your attractions. Or have a hard copy ticket booklet shipped to your home. Shipping charges apply and they’re pricey. For example, UPS ground (7-10 day delivery) is $12.50 and UPS (2-day) is $25. If you’re like me and prefer paper copies of tickets, the budget friendly option is to order the mobile version and print the tickets.
Alternatively, you can purchase CityPASS tickets at the first attraction you visit.
You have your CityPASS tickets. Now what?
CityPASS advertises line skipping privileges at some attractions as a perk, so I was curious to see how that worked. Upon arrival at the American Museum of Natural History, I asked several of the museum guides how to access the CityPASS entry line. I was directed to the regular admission queue. I had the same experience at the Top of the Rock. It happened to be a very quiet Tuesday in NYC. The crowds were light. During busy times, however, there might be a special line for pass holders. My best advice? Ask for VIP access. And do it with a smile!
CityPASS entry policies at other NYC attractions:
9/11 Memorial and Museum
CityPASS ticket holders have a dedicated ticket line for entry. Present your CityPASS voucher and you’ll be issued a timed admission ticket to the Museum.
Empire State Building
People who come to the Empire State Building with CityPASS vouchers do not need to stop at the ticket kiosks and can head straight to the security line, where their CityPASS voucher will be scanned. Another perk is that with CityPASS, guests can visit the building twice in the same day – once in the morning and then again after 10:00 p.m.
Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum
CityPASS guests enter the Welcome Center via the Will Call line. After passing through a security check, they must stop at the Box Office to exchange their pass for an Intrepid general admission ticket. During busy times, they may encounter lines at entry points and at security screening.
Navigating attractions with CityPASS in NYC
To max your CityPASS use, take some time to plan your itinerary using the attractions map on the CityPASS website. If this is your first time visiting the Big Apple, it’s important to realize that the city’s like a home renovation project: it will take twice as long as you plan to get where you want to go.
Here are two sample itineraries to cluster your daily touring based on your family’s interests:
New York City sample CityPASS itineraries
CityPASS includes 3 world famous museums and they’re physically located on the edges of the middle of Central Park. I suggest arriving at the American Museum of Natural History when it opens and taking the first guided tour of the day. Then watch either the Hayden Planetarium show OR giant screen movie, both of which are included with your CityPASS voucher.
Next, walk through Central Park to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Choose a route that passes by one or more of the Park highlights like the renovated Belvedere Castle, Strawberry Fields or the Alice in Wonderland statue. Then, grab a bite to eat at the lakeside Loeb Boathouse (pricey) or at the Le Pain Quotidien cafe at Mineral Springs (budget-friendly).
Meet the Met
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is massive. So, decide whether you want to see the museum’s highlights or concentrate your visit on one exhibit. My kids always opted for Arms and Armor and the Egyptian wing. If your favorite childhood book was “From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler,” structure your tour around the artifacts featured in the book like Marie Antoinette’s armchair and the fountain in the Charles Engelhard Court.
Pooped yet? You’ve got one more museum to visit. Head to the Guggenheim and circle the famous Frank Lloyd Wright spirals. The CityPASS tips page says you can see the museum’s permanent collection in an hour. I agree. Alternatively, skip the Guggenheim. You can appreciate the building’s architecture from the exterior. Instead, head to the Top of the Rock observatory to end your day. It’s located in the heart of midtown in Rockefeller Center.
Read More: Plan the Best Family Vacation in NYC
From the Sky to the Sea
CityPASS gives you several either/or choices to make. If you’re going to head out to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, plan to devote a full day to touring. Get advance tickets for the Crown or Pedestal access (not included with the CityPASS program).
Or, start your morning at the Empire State Building Observatory. Get there as close to opening as possible because the security lines (and your wait time) get longer throughout the day. On a clear day, well, you can see forever. It’s truly an iconic NYC experience.
Then choose the other side of the Statue of Liberty option and take one of the Circle Line sightseeing cruises on the Hudson River. You’ll get to see and photograph Lady Liberty in all her glory.
TravelingMom Tip: Looking to visit NYC but hoping to avoid the crowds? The week after the NYC marathon in November is relatively calm because local kids are in school and holiday visitors have yet to arrive. You won’t have downtown to yourself, but the crowds are definitely lighter than during spring cherry blossom season, summer vacation or the Christmas holidays.
The final word on CityPASS in NYC
- I think you need more than 1-2 days to make full use of the CityPASS vouchers.
- Children under 6 may require different ticketing options at each of the attractions, complicating the convenience of the CityPASS program.
- First time visitors are more likely to want to tick off the popular attractions included with the CityPASS.
You can’t put a price tag on the convenience of having all of your admission tickets in one place. That feature makes the CityPASS program an excellent option, if, like me, you like to keep travel, especially with kids, as simple as possible. I didn’t experience line skipping privileges. But fellow TravelingMom Catherine Parker enjoyed this perk when visiting NYC with her teen daughter. Catherine was also happily surprised with the either/or options, like the Circle Line Sightseeing cruises, which she wouldn’t have taken had it not been included with her CityPASS purchase.
If you could only visit one place in NYC, where would you go and why?